Chapter 11 – Who Stole the Tarts?
We’re in a multi-part series discussing armed contractor accountability. First we looked at the Blackwater Christmas Eve shooting and immunity, the UCMJ, and civilian crimes, then we began asking why there haven’t been more trials. Last week we looked at the idealist view that investigations are proceeding. Publication of the recent Pilot article on the shooting also brought a bonus mid-week post noting the article and discussing the pragmatist view that seasoned veterans are less likely to use unnecessary force. This time, we’ll look at the pessimist view and, if we don’t run too long, potential solutions.
Whatever your view of contractors / mercenaries (your choice) … ok, wait a minute. We are sick of typing that week after week. Can’t we at least come up with a non-controversial term we all agree on?? Mer-tractors? Contraries? Something?
Anyway, whatever you call these individuals supporting
The argument really comes in two flavors: civil authorities do not more vigorously enforce criminal laws when it comes to armed contractors because they are already so hopelessly overburdened that this task falls off the table, or they do not enforce because of political direction to focus their limited resources elsewhere. One argument is more partisan and cynical than the other, but both basically describe a resources-to-requirements mismatch.
We’ll look at requirements first. Just how much crime is there to be battled?
To understand the challenge facing law enforcement, first let’s look at
This sounds bad, but not to worry—it gets worse. First, these are the reported crimes, leaving out a massive number of unreported incidents. Further, law enforcement does not realistically have the option of enforcing only violent crime laws, so meaningful crime statistics have to include all offenses.
A better approximation of the number that is of interest comes from the National Crime Victimization Survey, which is the federal government’s estimation of total violent crime plus certain property crimes. According to the Survey, there are approximately 23 million such crimes annually, about one for every 12.9 people. With just over 14 million arrests annually, perpetrators have about a 61% chance of being arrested—better (for society) than 43% but not great.
Of course, the Survey statistics do not include white-collar offenses and the thousands of, shall we say “less traditional,” crimes we’ve discussed before. Meaning that altogether there are significantly more than the aforementioned 23 million offenses annually, and likelihood of arrest is something well south of 61%.
The point being that even inside the United States, with a stable society, advanced equipment and methods, and officers working on their native turf, we see that perpetrators have a good chance of avoiding accountability, and those who commit a violent crime are more likely than not to ‘get away with it.’
The problem, it seems, is that there’s simply too much area to cover with just a limited amount of fuzz. There are about 840,000 federal, state and local law enforcement officers nationwide, or about one for every 350 people.
Remembering that our interest here is enforcement of federal criminal law, however, we have to exclude the hundreds of thousands of state and local officers. Looking at the 104,884 federal officers authorized to carry firearms and make arrests, we see there is about one officer for every 2826 people in the
Or, looking at it another way, given that there are between 4,000 and 10,000 federal criminal prohibitions (that is, four to ten thousand different crimes with which one could be charged), there are only between 10 and 26 officers available for a given crime in a nation of about 300 million.
That’s not quite as bad as it might seem because, hopefully, federal authorities have more people assigned to violent crimes than to atrocities like transporting water hyacinths, gluing together dollar bills, or impersonating a 4-H club member—all punishable by time in the federal pen.
We’d list more examples, but just can’t stomach looking up more of this nonsense. I’d rather do something less painful—like stick my hand in the garbage disposal.
We're talking runaway government that is simply dumb. Not just dumb like “Why was I an Art History major?” dumb, but dumb like walking-into-Michael-Vick’s-barn-wearing-a-raw-steak-suit dumb.
Anyway, the contractor accountability debate is most often based on two premises: that “there are no laws” or that “they are not enforced.” We have already looked at the fact that contrary to myth, the laws are in place. And now, looking at the formidable demands we place on federal law enforcement, it appears that enforcement here may be hampered by the sheer volume of what we ask these men and women to do.
Of course, just like with Mer-tractors and Contraries, the general public has an entirely accurate and realistic grasp of—and is consistently presented with a clear picture of—what law enforcement is capable of and does on a daily basis:
So, you know, it simply must be that those armed contractor crimes just aren’t being investigated because nobody wants to, not because of resource constraints. Right?
So how do the enforcement prospects compare for armed contractors? The FBI currently runs over fifty overseas offices, including of course
We’ll err on the side of caution and call it exactly 24 people. Depending on which armed contractor headcount you choose (6000; 10,800; 30,000; etc.) that equates to somewhere between 250 and 1250 armed contractors per agent, which compares pretty well to the 2826:1 ratio discussed above.
Of course, if you use the 180,000 contractor number—on the bulletproof idea that the FBI is going to investigate actions by Iraqi garbagemen and teachers—then the ratio is something like 7500:1.
Regardless, the Pessimist argues that there is a requirements-resource mismatch. First of all, the agents-to-people ratio is inherently and unavoidably an apples-to-cumquats comparison. As noted on the link above, the FBI Iraq field office has many other tasks. Further, the contractors are operating in a far more hostile and dangerous environment than Joe Sixpack back home.
Unless Joe lives in
The point is that the laws and the infrastructure foundation are in place to hold accountable any contractor that We the People choose, more resources and effort just needs be put forth.
To summarize, for six posts now we have been examining the facts and picking apart various contractor accountability issues without providing much information on a way forward.
Fortunately (or not, see below), there is growing interest in D.C. right now in this issue. And, as more and more traditional media wake up to the issue, we will see a veritable avalanche of stories about the actions and mistakes of low-end and fledgling operators. They will be excerpted and reposted at length. You can watch it live this week with the Steve Fainaru article from the Washington Post.
The result will be a frenzy of cries for “new laws to address this crisis.” Because even though forktrucks are needed (no, I mean literally needed) to haul out all of the legislation passed each year from the hallowed halls of Congress, the answer to any concern is “I have written a bill …”
Nevermind that adequate enforcement of what already exists—whether under UCMJ or civil law—is the primary thing that is needed.
After all, if you sponsor a bill, you must be an aggressive, take-charge performer who is making things happen for the good citizenry back home in ________ [insert your state here].
The name of the game is: have a clerk slap together a bill, trade some favors to get co-sponsors, and then fire up the press-release machinery, baby.
Want an example? ‘Senator adds funds for asparagus production research.’ (Nobody get smug here, you can find those for nearly any issue, for both major parties, and from every Representative and Senator. Everyone wants their snout in the public trough.)
If you long-time readers have not broken the code on this, I will put Super Unleaded in a cheap rental car before I argue for more new laws. But that’s just me.
The Library of Congress, a primary source for information on current Legislative activity, reports several hundred bills in progress regarding contractors or accountability.
There are, however, twenty-two bills that deal most directly or most harshly with the issue, or are most likely to actually be sent down
H.R. 369 – Transparency and Accountability in Security Contracting Act of 2007
H.R. 400 – War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007
H.R. 528 –
H.R. 714 – War Funding Accountability Act
H.R. 846 – Emergency and Disaster Assistance Fraud Penalty Enhancement Act
H.R. 897 –
H.R. 1362 – Accountability in Contracting Act
H.R. 1585 – National Defense Authorization Act for FY07
H.R. 1763 – Indentured Servitude Abolition Act of 2007
H.R. 1986 – Federal Contractor Accountability Act of 2007
H.R. 2198– Contractor Accountability Act
H.R. 2206– To provide emergency supplemental war spending
H.R. 2740 - MEJA Expansion and Enforcement Act of 2007
H.R. 3033 - Contractors and Federal Spending Accountability Act of 2007
S. 32– Defense Acquisition Reform Act of 2007
S.119 – War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007
S.567 – National Defense Authorization Act for FY2007
S.606 – Honest Leadership and Accountability in Contracting Act
S.674 - Transparency and Accountability in Security Contracting Act of 2007
S.680 – Accountability in Government Contracting Act of 2007
S.1004 – Restoring Integrity in Contracting Act of 2007
S.1825 – Commission on Wartime Contracting Establishment Act
The staff here at the Rabbit has very few rules, but those we have are ironclad. Number one with a bullet is “Friday is No-Pants Day.” Close behind is “Never Make a Beer Call Your Name Twice” and right now I hear that sweet Siren song.
Next time, we’ll talk about the one or two bills most likely to pass. Or just find a whole new topic.
Postscript: As frequent readers know, The Rabbit is a huge advocate of a vigorous and informed public debate. Last week’s Pilot article (and resulting AP story) on the Christmas Eve shooting was positive in that it sparked some useful discussion of contractor accountability here and there.
You can learn a lot from reading the comment threads of such discussion. However, it is always interesting when the loons weigh in. Exhibit A: “It sounds as if someone in our government was trying to assassinate the Vice President of
Yes, lady, you nailed it: That is the best black ops plan that our entire national security apparatus could come up with—send one drunken bumbler, armed only with an unsilenced handgun, who after eliminating the bodyguard for the VP, suffers a severe A.D.D. attack and wanders over to Liberty Pool to have that alarmingly drunk “I Love you, man!!!” moment with acquaintances, confess the shooting, and then go home to pass out.
It’s good to hear from people like this from time-to-time. Posers and idiots who set aside the gin bottle, put down the sweater they’re knitting for their cat and, Pall Mall clenched firmly in their green teeth, bang out comments explaining how it is all a ________ [Republican / Democrat / Arab / UN / Teletubby / whatever] plot.
We can only pray that ol’ green teeth’s hopes are realized and we all learn about the secret meeting at the FEMA moon base where the shooter was given his classified orders by the NWO security delegation comprised of Elvis, a Sasquatch from each of the four lost tribes, and the re-animated head of Ted Williams.
Really, you can learn a lot by reading random comment threads.
Or, you can watch 3:00 am reruns of Alf on Telemundo. That would be just as helpful.
“Donde esta le gato, Alf?”
By the way, we did not photoshop the Alf picture. Someone out there in a very dark and scary corner of the internet has some serious fetish issues.